Hollywood: Fantasyland

Tom Cruise: 'My job is as hard as fighting in Afghanistan.' Picked a great week to stick your foot in that one, son.

Certain Marines crafted this appropriately off-color response. [May have to be logged in to FB to see it.]

"Cause of death undetermined"

A remarkably restrained account of the demise of a Louisiana man who had been holding his kidnapped ex-wife hostage since last Wednesday in a shack in a canefield.  The police couldn't find her but, unluckily for the guy, her family could.  They applied a very direct approach to the situation.  The authors of the story leave a lot to the imagination.

Veterans Day & Birthday Weekend

Normally I'd wait until the actual days to post, but all the active duty folks I know are so involved in the 4-day weekend I figure I'd better post in case they only get by once. Happy birthday, tomorrow. Those of you who are veterans or hope someday to become veterans, enjoy the eleventh. All the best, warriors.

He could fix this if he liked

A comment I admired:
The GOP needs to heavily advertise the fact that the only, yes only, reason that people are losing their current policies is because President Obama's administration (which he presumably leads) wrote regulations that overrode the grandfathering clause in all those policies. 
This is important.  They didn't have to do that!  It's still reversible! 
The GOP leadership needs to call him out on this daily, until even his sycophantic mainstream press contingent is forced to ask him why he doesn't simply tell his HHS director to reverse the harmful regulations that overrode the grandfather clause. 
Then, he either reverses it and restores normality, while destroying the source of the subsidies required to make Obamacare work, or he continues to lie, and the Democrat brand continues to plummet.
I'm making this point--that HHS could reverse the harmful regulations tomorrow without violating the ACA--in every forum I can reach.  It won't prop the ACA up; the income from we few "Wild Westers" isn't enough even if every one of us knuckles under to paying double the premiums from now on.  But it will get some of us out of an acute, immediate bind, and it will show either that the President screwed the pooch big time, or that he could help this "unimportant 5%" but simply can't be bothered to do it.

Junk teachers

Maybe there is some way to tell a good teacher from an ineffective one:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan hailed this year's National Assessment of Educational Progress (i.e., the nation's report card) results on Thursday as "encouraging." . . . 
Between 2010 and 2012, about 4% of D.C. teachers—and nearly all of those rated "ineffective"—were dismissed. About 30% of teachers rated "minimally effective" left on their own, likely because they didn't receive a pay bump and were warned that they could be removed within a year if they failed to shape up. 
Clearing out the deadwood appears to have lifted scores. D.C. led the nation in student progress. Average reading scores jumped five points in the fourth grade and six in the eighth. The percentage of students scoring at or above "basic" in math rose by six points in both grade levels.
Just admitting that there could be such a thing as "deadwood" has got to help.

Lies and "Apologies"

Shamelessly cross-posted from tomorrow's edition of my blog.

First he lied with his bald, clearly spoken, oft-repeated "Period."

Then he lied with his denial that he said "Period," insisting that he really said "If."

Now he "apologizes." 

I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.

Let's leave aside whether we can believe him this third time around.  Let's look at what he's masquerading as an apology.

For what is he apologizing, really?  That folks find themselves in "this situation" as a result of his behavior.  There's not the least syllable of an apology for his behavior.

A third lie.

Update: As I think about this a bit more, here's another thought: Obama is sorry that folks took him at his word--that whole "based on assurances they got from me" thing.


Eric Hines

Chris Christie, hard-edged conservative

OK, now that you've stopped laughing, you can treat yourself to more entertaining tidbits from the alarmed president of the Democratic Governors Association:
“What’s worked for [Christie] has been to make sure that nobody talks about the issues, that people just get consumed with his personality-driven late-show entertainment,” O’Comartun said.  “People will see past the bluster and the vaudeville routine that is the Chris Christie show.  They’ll focus in on the issues.”
Of course they will.  That's just how you've been training them, Mr. O'Carmatun!

On the issues, the best thing that probably can be said about Christie is that he'd be a sight better than Hillary Clinton.  The man has fallen for global warming, for pete's sake.   But on style, bluster, and vaudeville--oh, my!   Clinton will wish she had a sliver of what he's got.

I'm waiting for the bumper stickers:  "Putting government on a diet."

Glimmers and cold comforts

From Michael Barrone:
Northern Virginia was perhaps more impacted by the shutdown than any other part of the country.  Yet when the exit poll asked who was more to blame, 47 percent of voters said Republicans in Congress and 46 percent said Obama. Considering that individuals almost always poll better than groups of people—particularly Republicans (or, for that matter, Democrats) in Congress, this is a devastating result for Obama. 
It reminds me of the story of the Teamsters Union business agent who was in the hospital and received a bouquet of flowers.  The card read, “The executive board wishes you a speedy recovery by a vote of 9 to 6.”  However, in this case, the margin was narrower.

Unloading the gun

I'm liking Sarah Hoyt again this morning.   She argues that sooner or later every government becomes like a monkey with a pistol.
In monarchies this is fairly easy to see.  The brilliant father (or in Portugal’s case) the brilliant uncle, will raise a successor who -- either because of natural issues (those people really needed to get a clue about marrying their cousins) or because he was raised in luxury, catered to from birth, and never had to do anything to justify his existence, while, at the same time, everyone told him how brilliant he was – will be a moron in power. 
But in democracies this happens too.   Democracies are often victims of their own success.   The generation that strives and fights raises the generation that is much like the king’s heir.   The generation that builds an industrial empire raises the generation that says “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a war on poverty?  And isn’t the government just the instrument to use?” 
. . . Keep government small and starved. Then when it starts pointing the gun inappropriately, and shooting at shadows, or at people just for fun and with total amoral enjoyment, you can immobilize it and take the gun away. . . .  The only way to make this even remotely safe is to unload that gun, to take as many things as possible that people rely on the government for, and find other ways to do it.  Let government play with its shiny toys, but learn to ignore, circumvent, go under, go around.  Try to live your life as much as you can without either asking anything from government or letting it reach into your life to destroy anything you care about.
Before government can be trusted to do the tasks that we really must entrust to it, it should be restrained from wrecking anything even more important than those tasks.  You don't start a fire until you've thought through how to contain it.

This rings a bell

From this morning's Wall Street Journal:
Angered consumers are taking legal action over being dropped. On Monday, two California residents filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles state court against Anthem Blue Cross, operated by WellPoint Inc., WLP +0.69% alleging that the insurer misled them into altering individual policies that led to them being canceled this year. In one case, a woman in her 60s upped her deductible, by $1,000, to $6,000 in return for lower monthly payments. In another, a health plan was upgraded to include more robust coverage. 
"This was an orchestrated effort by Anthem Blue Cross to get as many people off of these grandfathered plans as possible," said William Shernoff, a Claremont, Calif., lawyer representing both plaintiffs. A WellPoint spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
We made trivial changes in coverage last year, too, and were vehemently reassured by Blue Cross that it would have no impact on our grandfathered status.

Game changers

I like to think about technological advantages, despite their frequent downsides, because they're often the wild card that allows people to sidestep the tyranny they're otherwise so likely to be subjected to by the control freaks who gravitate to power.  (Why, yes, I am preoccupied with issues of tyranny late.  Why do you ask?)  The Atlantic ran a survey of their favorite experts to see what consensus they could develop on the 50 most important advances in technology since the wheel.  The list is very light on ancient discoveries, with only seven discoveries dating from the B.C. period:  alphabetization, Archimedes's screw, cement, the sailboat, the abacus, the nail, and the lever, in descending order of popularity.  Wikipedia has a broader list here, arranged chronologically rather than by importance.

I notice that the stirrup, the rotary quern, the horse collar, and the crossbow didn't make the list.  Nor did crop rotation, though nitrogen-fixing did.  Wasn't there a well-known book about the critical importance of these five inventions?  I can't find it now in a net search.

Update:  I believe the book I remembered on the subject of the quern, the stirrup, crop rotation, and the horse collar was Lynn White's 1962 "Medieval Technology and Social Change," which I was conflating with William MacNeill's 1984 "The Pursuit of Power," highlighting the crossbow.

Don't like your party?

Change it.


My most surprising discovery:  the overwhelming importance in business of an unseen force that we might call "the institutional imperative.  In business school, I was given no hint of the imperative's existence and I did not intuitively understand it when I entered the business world.  I thought then that decent, intelligent, and experienced managers would automatically make rational business decisions.  But I learned over time that isn't so.  Instead, rationality frequently wilts when the institutional imperative comes into play. 
For example:  (1) As if governed by Newton's First Law of Motion, an institution will resist any change in its current direction; (2) Just as work expands to fill available time, corporate projects or acquisitions will materialize to soak up available funds; (3) Any business craving of the leader, however foolish, will be quickly supported by detailed rate-of-return and strategic studies prepared by his troops; and (4) The behavior of peer companies, whether they are expanding, acquiring, setting executive compensation or whatever, will be mindlessly imitated."
-- Warren Buffett, in the 1989 Berkshire Hathaway Chairman's Letter

Does this mean that corporations are hopeless?  I would say, instead, that it means we can't expect corporations, or any other group of people, to amend themselves from within purely as a result of rational thinking or pure motives.  It takes disruptive outside forces--the pain of failure--to make them change.  Private institutions can be stupid and harmful, but they don't hold a candle to stupid and harmful government institutions, because it's so much harder to apply the pain of failure to the latter.  Voter outrage is weak and delayed.  Private companies can lose their customers; monopolies can't.  Any government product that can outlaw its competition is almost guaranteed to become a monster.

Pesky talking points

Politico is not what you'd call a right-wing site.  At most, it's "centrist," whatever that means, and it's generally positive about Obamacare.  It's running a series of thumbnail PDFs to educate the pubic about this new law.  So what does the article "Beware of the Obamacare talking points" tell us?
  • Obamacare is an entitlement, and you can never shut one of those down.  The Politico response is:  well, yeah, they're basically entitlements, though you can quibble about the details.  Obamacare is going to cost almost $2 trillion over ten years.  But Congress could still conceivably scale these entitlements back, unlike every other entitlement.

  • Obamacare is already "helping to slow" the growth of healthcare spending.  Eh, not so much.

  • Subsidies will fix the rate shock.  Eh, not so much, and to the rate shock you'll have to add the sharp increase in out-of-pocket costs.

  • It'll be like shopping for a TV.  "It may get there, but it will take a while."  For people who've never tried to buy insurance before, it could conceivably be less confusing than it was before, but for everyone else it's a nightmare.

  • You won't have as many doctors to choose from.  Yeah, but people who were uninsured didn't have any to choose from, so it's all good.

  • Obamacare will reduce the deficit.  You're dreaming; see above.

  • Obamacare will usher in death panels.  Oh, stop it, they won't be here for a little while yet.